There are a few rules in fashion that are worth paying attention to, at least if you're male. One is that your shoes and your belt need to match. Another is that the knot of your tie should be in proportion to the width of your collar and size of your jacket lapels. Oh, and that bottom button on your suit jacket? It's for show only. Keep it unbuttoned at all times.
The other rule, though, is that you need to have a few essential items. Yes, go buy the disco tuxedo jacket and the red patent leather shoes. But only if you have a good white oxford, a blue blazer, and at least one patterned tie.
Same goes for marketing and advertising. The digital medium presents us with so many options and the chance to do so many wild ideas. We can create movies and apps and Twitter contests. We can take over pages and give you live feedback while you use the product in particular locations. We can create amusements, interactions, engagements, utility, and functionality. But only, only, only if you have already covered your core needs. You can go crazy, but only if you have the essentials in place.
It is in this spirit that I offer you this week the first set of the six essentials of advertising. These are the things that you absolutely need to have. No fooling around, no shortcuts, and no skipping ahead. Use this as a checklist to make sure that you're not skipping the important stuff just to get to the fun stuff (and, actually, this stuff is pretty fun as well).
Essential 1: Your Story, Well Told
You need to invest the time to create a compelling version of your product or brand story. This, most likely, is going to involve some video that talks about what your product does and how it fits into the consumer's life. This is your showpiece. You should be able to present this to new employees and consumers and partners. It should have an emotional hook that speaks to the passion that you have about your product and isn't shy about showing that what you make is an important thing in the world.
The good news is that, online, you can make this fairly long. In the past, of course, the only real opportunity you had was a TV commercial, which meant you had to be dramatic and sell your product. Online, you can explore more and find new ways to communicate the story behind the product. You can have an interactive timeline on a site, or even a gallery of photos or videos from a recent event. Whatever it is, it should all be in a single place that you can direct people to, where they can really understand not just what you have to offer, but why you made it in the first place.
Essential 2: A Living Presence, Where Your Consumers Are
You need to be on social media. And by "on social media" I don't mean that you just need to have your company (or brand name) reserved on Twitter and Facebook (you do). You need to make a commitment to having someone on your team spending time living in these spaces. Having someone in social media is critical because it shows that you live in the same spaces as your consumers. You are a part of their community. But note, having a presence where your consumers live might be on Facebook or Twitter. But it could also be on a particular forum dedicated to your product or even your own community. The important thing is to find out where your consumers are gathering to talk about the topics that are relevant to you and get there.
Once you have your presence nailed, then you can start thinking about being clever about what you are doing there - getting research, launching polls or contests, and so on. But the number one priority needs to be just being there.
Essential 3: A Simple Campaign That Sells Your Product
It's always the most basic stuff that gets skipped. There are always campaigns that have big creative ideas with eye-catching graphics and cool imagery. But too often, marketers forget that people need to know what, in particular, your product does and how/when to use it.
You need to create a campaign, probably that runs all the time that simply says what you offer. This should be the absolute simplest set of ads you ever create. They should get directly to the point, without a lot of fluff around them. You can use these on performance networks and (especially) in targeted and retargeted placements. Make sure that people know what they can get from you, without having to do a lot of thinking about it. Once this message is out, you can get creative about communicating that idea. But until then, you just need to make it clear what you are offering.
That's the first set of the essentials. Next column, we'll go into the second set of three. Then, you can run through your current work and make sure you aren't missing anything critical. Then, you can definitely feel confident to open your amusement park, put on your Broadway show, or whatever other big idea you have cooked up for yourself.
Have another essential? Tweet it to me please or put it in the comments. I'll review before filing the next column.
Image on home page via Shutterstock.
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Gary Stein is SVP, strategy and planning in iCrossing's San Francisco office. He has been working in marketing for more than a decade. Gary lives in San Francisco with his family. Follow him on Twitter: @garyst3in. The opinions expressed in Gary's columns are his alone.
March 19, 2014